The Great McGinty
And so we end our Preston Sturges film festival with the first movie he directed. This is his political film, and it’s a humdinger. McGinty (Brian Donlevy) is a bartender in a dive in an unnamed little country, and he tells the story of his rise and fall to a couple of patrons, one of whom stole some money from the bank where he worked. The man was basically honest, and now wants to kill himself. McGinty tells him things could be worse. McGinty started out as a bum, voting 37 times in one day at $2 a vote, and so impressed the local boss (Akim Tamiroff, who steals the picture) that he took him into the political machine. Soon he’s collecting protection money, then he’s the mayor, then the governor … until he makes a big mistake. He gets honest. There is an opening prologue: “This is the story of two men who met in a banana republic. One of them never did anything dishonest in his life except for one crazy minute. The other never did anything honest in his life except for one crazy minute. They both had to get out of the country.” That is so Preston Sturges. In a Frank Capra film, the moment of honesty would lead to troubles, but good would triumph in the end and everybody would be happy. In a Sturges movie, escaping with your life is the best you can expect.